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An Alabama inmate who claims to have been assaulted by a prison guard has retained attorneys for his case against the officer.

Attorney Leroy Maxwell, Jr. of Maxwell & Tillman was retained by prisoner Jimmy Norman on Saturday to represent him in his case against Ell White, who he claims assaulted him on the roof of the chapel at Elmore Correctional Facility on September 14.

Maxwell is a former fellow with Montgomery's Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and served on a legal team that won two recent U.S. Supreme Court cases.

In a video released after the incident, an officer can be seen striking an inmate multiple times.

Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) officials identified Norman, who is serving a sentence for breaking into cars in Madison County, as the inmate.

Reports said that White tried to remove him and is the one in the video repeatedly striking Norman on top of the roof.

White was placed on mandatory leave pending an investigation by ADOC.

ADOC said Norman is alive and “fine.”

Maxwell said his team would be sending a request to the Elmore County District Attorney for criminal assault charges against White. 

He added that he would also be filing federal suits against White for negligence, wantonness, assault and battery and the ADOC for failure to train and supervise. 

But this is not White’s first run-in with controversy at his job. 

According to an ADOC investigative report in 2017, White lied to investigators about his involvement in the death of Billy Smith after Smith was assaulted by both inmates and officers at Elmore.

The EJI claimed that no criminal justice action was taken against White for this incident.

Norman’s case is one among many incidents on the plate of the Alabama prison system.

In 2020, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against the State of Alabama concerning poor prison sanitation, violence between inmates and excessive force from staff and sexual assault.

The lawsuit resulted from a multi-year investigation conducted by the DOJ Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Offices for the Northern, Middle and Southern districts of Alabama.

In October, Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation authorizing ADOC to build two new 4,000-bed mega prisons to address the issues. Though the plan faced political and economic obstacles, it secured a $509 million bond deal in July.

An outcry from prison opposition groups and inmates over prison conditions sparked an inmate worker strike on September 26, led by an organization called Both Sides of the Wall.

Reports said around 80 members of Both Sides of the Wall held a rally outside the ADOC office in Montgomery to call for prison reform. 

The group included family members of inmates as well as former inmates and demanded that ADOC begin to guarantee parole, repeal the Habitual Felony Offender Act and eliminate life without parole, among other requests.

ADOC said that most of these demands would require legislation. The Alabama legislature is currently not in session.

“The assault on Mr. Norman is yet another example of the culture and lack of institutional control that plagues Alabama prisons,” stated Maxwell. “Inmates are beaten by ADOC employees, refused medical treatment, and housed in unlivable conditions. Inmates around the state are currently on a labor strike to challenge these very issues. They have taken matters into their own hands to challenge their unconstitutional treatment. Inmates are doing all they can do while they serve their sentences behind bars. We must take action. We must help them.”

However, ADOC also said in a press release on October 3 that most Alabama prisons have witnessed a partial return of inmate workers, which has resulted in the restoration of regular meal services. 

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email will.blakely@1819news.com or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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